Shepton Mallet

Shepton Mallet is an English town and civil parish in the Mendip District of Somerset, about 16 miles (26 km) south-west of Bath, 18 miles (29 km) south of Bristol and 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Wells, with an estimated population of 10,369 in 2014.[1] Mendip District Council is based there. The Mendip Hills lie to the north and the River Sheppey runs through the town, as does the route of the Fosse Way, the main Roman road into south-west England. There is evidence of Roman settlement. Its medieval parish church is among many listed buildings. Shepton Mallet Prison was England's oldest until it closed in March 2013.[2] The medieval wool trade gave way to industries such as brewing in the 18th century. The town remains noted for cider production. Shepton Mallet is the closest town to the Glastonbury Festival. Also nearby is the Royal Bath and West of England Society showground.

Shepton Mallet
Street scene with buildings on the left and right. In a central position is a stone arched building with a spire.
The historic marketplace, with the Market Cross
Shepton Mallet is located in Somerset
Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet
Location within Somerset
Population10,369 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceST619438
• London106 mi (171 km) E
District
Shire county
Region
CountryEngland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townSHEPTON MALLET
Postcode districtBA4
Dialling code01749
PoliceAvon and Somerset
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
England
Somerset
51°11′35″N 2°32′46″W / 51.193°N 2.546°W / 51.193; -2.546Coordinates: 51°11′35″N 2°32′46″W / 51.193°N 2.546°W / 51.193; -2.546

HistoryEdit

The name Shepton derives from the Old English scoep and tun, meaning "sheep farm"; the Domesday Book of 1086 records a settlement known as Sceaptun.[3] The current spelling is recorded at least as far back as 1496, in a letter from Henry VII. The second part of the name derives from that of the Norman family of Malet. Gilbert Malet, son of William Malet, Honour of Eye, held a lease from Glastonbury Abbey around 1100. The second letter "l" appears to have been added to the spelling in the 16th century.[4][5]

Prehistoric settlementEdit

Archaeological investigations have found evidence of prehistoric activity in the Shepton Mallet area, with substantial amounts of Neolithic flint and some pottery fragments from the late Neolithic period. The two barrows on Barren Down, to the north of the town centre, contained cremation burials from the Bronze Age and another Bronze Age burial site contained a skeleton and some pottery. The remains of Iron Age roundhouses and artefacts such as quernstones and beads were found at Cannard's Grave, and a probable Iron Age farming settlement has been identified at Field Farm.[6] In the nearby countryside there is evidence of Iron Age cave dwellings in Ham Woods to the north-west, and several burial mounds at Beacon Hill, a short distance north of the town.[7]

Roman occupationEdit

Shepton Mallet is about halfway between the Roman towns of Bath and Ilchester on the Fosse Way. Although there are no visible remains apart from the line of the Roman road, there is archaeological evidence for early military and later civilian settlement lasting into the 5th century. Domed pottery kilns, with pottery still in situ, were identified on the site of the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery in the mid-19th century, suggesting military activity in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Several hoards of Roman coins ranging from the 1st to 4th centuries have been found and more than 300 fibula brooches, potsherds and other artefacts. A few isolated burials near the Fosse Way route were found in the 19th century.[6]

A lead coffin in a rock-cut grave was discovered at a site by the Fosse Way in 1988. This discovery and the impending commercial development of the site by the landowner, Showerings, led archaeologists to make more extensive excavations in the 1990s. The grave was part of a larger cemetery containing 17 burials on a rough east-west alignment, indicating probable Christian beliefs. Two other, smaller cemeteries contained graves aligned north-south, possibly signifying pagan religious practices. One burial was in a substantial stone coffin positioned beneath a mausoleum whose foundations remained.[6][8]

One find in the Fosse Way burials was a Chi-Rho amulet, thought at the time to be from the 5th century and considered among the earliest clear evidence of Christianity in England.[8] A copy of it was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, by the churches of the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The amulet is in the Museum of Somerset, but analysis by Liverpool University in 2008 using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy showed it was a fake: its silver content dates from the 19th century or later.[9][10][11]

Excavations in the 1990s confirmed the presence of a linear settlement along the Fosse Way for perhaps a kilometre, with cobbled streets, wooden and stone workshops and houses (some with two storeys) containing hearths and ovens, industrial areas, and a stone-lined well. many artefacts were found, including local and imported pottery (such as Samian ware), items of jewellery such as brooches, rings and bracelets, toilet items including tweezers, ear scoops and nail cleaners, bronze and iron tools, and a lead ingot which probably originated from the Roman lead mines in the Mendip Hills. Coins minted across the Roman empire were also found. The finds indicate occupation from the late 1st or early 2nd centuries to the late 4th or early 5th centuries. As no public buildings were found, the settlement was probably not a town.[6][8]

Saxon and Norman periodsEdit

Evidence of Saxon settlement includes some Saxon stonework in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul.[6] A charter of King Ine of Wessex, from 706, witnessed by nine bishops including the Archbishop of Canterbury, records that the area in which Shepton Mallet now stands was awarded to Abbot Berwald of Glastonbury Abbey.[12] According to some legends Indract of Glastonbury was buried in Shepton.[13] The town was in the Whitstone Hundred; the hundred courts were held at Cannard's Grave, just south of the town.[14][15]

The Exeter Domesday Book records that on the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, the site was held (probably by lease from the Abbey) by one Uluert, and then by Roger de Corcella at the time of the survey in 1086. When Corcella died, sometime before or around 1100, the land passed to the Malets, a Norman family whose name was added to that of the settlement (and another of their holdings, Curi – now Curry Mallet).[15][16][17][18]

Middle AgesEdit

The Malets retained the estate until the reign of King John, when on the death of William Malet (fl. 1192–1215) and on the payment by his sons-in-law of a fine of 2000 marks, due to participating in a rebellion against the king) it passed through his daughter Mabel to her husband Hugh de Vivonne. Some generations later, the part of the estate containing Shepton Mallet was sold to a relative, Sir Thomas Gournay. His son, also called Thomas, took part in the murder of Edward II. His estates were confiscated by Edward III in 1337, although they were returned some years later. When Mathew de Gournay died childless in 1406, the estate reverted to the Crown and was then granted to Sir John de Tiptoft. It was again confiscated from his son by Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses, when the family sided with Edward IV, but was restored to Sir John's grandson, Edward Tiptoft, when Edward IV regained the throne. He died without issue, and there followed a succession of grants and reversions until Glastonbury Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII, and its lands, including Shepton Mallet, were granted to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1536.[16][19][20]

Charters for markets and fairs were granted in 1235, although these were revoked in 1260 and 1318 after objections by the Bishop of Wells because of the competition it represented to the market in his city. This indicates that the town was developing and prospering in the 13th and early 14th centuries.[6][21][22] The Black Death struck the town in 1348, reducing the population to about 300.[23] In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the population and economy were bolstered by arriving craftsmen and merchants from France and the Low Countries, who were escaping wars and religious persecution in their home countries. They introduced cloth-making, which together with the local wool trade, became a major industry in Shepton and other towns in Somerset and Wiltshire.[24][25] Wool became such a source of riches that when Henry VII needed to raise money to fight the Scots in 1496, he called on the wool merchants of Shepton to contribute £10 to the cause:[26]

To our trusty and wellbeloved John Calycote of Shepton Malet...
...because as we here ye be a man of good substaunce—we desire and pray you to makelone vnto us of the som of ten poundes whereof ye shal be vndoubtedly and assuredly repayd in our Receipt at the fest of Seynt Andrewe next coming...

— Henry VII, Letter under King's sign manual and Privy Seal, 1 December 1496

Civil War; Monmouth RebellionEdit

In 1625, a House of Correction was established in Shepton Mallet.[27][28]

In the English Civil War the town supported the parliamentary side, although Shepton appears to have mostly escaped conflict apart from a bloodless confrontation in the market place on 1 August 1642 between Royalists led by Sir Ralph Hopton and Parliament led by Colonel William Strode.[29][30] In 1645 Sir Thomas Fairfax led the New Model Army through the town on the way to capturing Bristol,[3] and in 1646 the church organ was apparently destroyed by Cromwellian soldiers.[31][32]

During the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, the Duke of Monmouth was welcomed when he passed through Shepton Mallet, staying at Longbridge House[33] in Cowl Street on the night of 23 June, with his men quartered throughout the town, before setting out for Bristol next day. Many Shepton men joined the cause, but Monmouth failed to take Bath or Bristol and had to return to Shepton on 30 June. After the Battle of Sedgemoor, the Duke fled and spent the night of 6 July at Downside, a mile north of Shepton, before being captured two days later. After the Bloody Assizes, twelve local supporters of Monmouth were hanged and quartered in the market place.[34][35][36][37]

In 1699 Edward Strode built almshouses, close to the rectory that his family had built, to house the town's grammar school, which lasted until 1900.[3]

18th–20th centuriesEdit

In the 17th and 18th centuries thriving wool and cloth industries were powered by the waters of the River Sheppey.[38] There were said to be 50 mills in and around the town in the early 18th century,[39] and a number of fine clothiers' houses survive, particularly in Bowlish, a hamlet on the western edge of Shepton Mallet.[40] Although these industries still employed some 4,000 towards the end of the century,[41] they were beginning to decline. Discontent at the mechanisation of the mills resulted in the deaths of two men in a riot in the town in 1775. This apparently discouraged mill-owners from modernising further.[42][43] The decision resulted in Shepton's cloth trade losing out to the steam-powered mills in the north of England in the early 19th century.[41] The manufacture of silk and crepe revived the town's fortunes somewhat,[44] and Shepton's mills manufactured the silk used in Queen Victoria's wedding dress.[45] However, these industries also died out eventually.

 
The former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery

While wool, cloth and silk declined, other industries grew. In the 19th and 20th centuries brewing particularly became one of the major industries. The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery,[46] built in 1864 and still a local landmark, was the first in England to brew lager. At its height, the brewery was exporting 1.8 million bottles a year to Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, South America and the West Indies. It closed in 1921.[47] However the town, home of Babycham, is still an important centre for cider production.

For a period during the Second World War, Shepton Mallet Prison was used to store national records from the Public Record Office, including the Magna Carta, the Domesday Book, the logbooks of HMS Victory, dispatches from the Battle of Waterloo and the "scrap of paper" signed by Hitler and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain at the Munich Conference of September 1938. The prison also became a US Army detention facility. Between 1943 and 1945, 18 US servicemen were executed within the prison walls, after convictions for murder, rape or both.[28]

In the 1960s and 1970s many historic buildings were demolished to build Hillmead council estate in the north of the town, and a retail development and theatre in the market place.[48]

The population of Shepton Mallet was fairly stable through the 19th century and the first part of the 20th: 5,104 in 1801 and 5,117 in 1851, then 5,446 by 1901, falling back to 5,260 in 1951.[49][50] By 2001, it had grown again to 8,981.[51]

GovernanceEdit

 
The High Street shops

Shepton Mallet is in the Mendip local government district, part of the county of Somerset. In the 80 years up to 1974, it had lain in Shepton Mallet Urban District.[52] The town elects one councillor to Somerset County Council – at the last election in 2012 a Conservative. It has four councillors on Mendip District Council, two from each of the two wards that make up the town. After the elections in 2015 all were Conservatives.

The civil parish of Shepton Mallet has adopted the style of a town. It has a Town Council of 16 members, split equally between the two wards: Shepton East and Shepton West. The most recent elections were in May 2015, after which the council was made up of five Conservatives, five Liberal Democrats, three members of the Labour Party and three independents.

Shepton Mallet falls within the Wells parliamentary constituency. Since the general election on 7 May 2015 the MP is James Heappey of the Conservative Party.

Prior to Brexit, the town was in the South West England European Parliamentary constituency, which elected six MEPs.

It is twinned with Misburg-Anderten in Germany,[53] with Oissel sur Seine in France, and with Bollnäs in Sweden.

ServicesEdit

There are two doctors' surgeries in Shepton Mallet,[54] a National Health Service community hospital formerly operated by Somerset Primary Care Trust,[55] and an independent sector treatment centre, which carries out certain surgical procedures.[56] The nearest general hospital is the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has retained its fire station in the town,[57] adjacent to the ambulance station of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust.[58]

Avon and Somerset Constabulary closed the town police station in 2014, although it reopened in 2020, next to the Haskins retail park.[59][60] The town belongs to Somerset East policing district.[61]

GeographyEdit

Shepton Mallet lies in the southern foothills of the Mendip Hills. The area is geologically founded on Forest Marble, Blue Lias and Oolitic limestone.[62]

Nearby cave systemsEdit

To the north of the town are several caves of the Mendip Hills, including Thrupe Lane Swallet which is a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),[63] and the St. Dunstan's Well Catchment, a cave system that includes a series of spectacularly-decorated caves totalling about 4 miles (6.4 km) of mapped passage.[64] The caves at Fairy Cave Quarry were formed mainly by the erosive action of water beneath the water-table at considerable pressure (so called 'phreatic' development), but as the water table has fallen, many now lie well above it and the system contains a variety of cave formations (stalagmites, stalactites and calcite curtains) which in extent and preservation are among the best in Britain. Shatter Cave and Withyhill Cave are generally considered to be among the finest decorated caves in Britain in terms of sheer abundance of pure white and translucent calcite deposits.[65][66] Small numbers of greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bat (R. hipposideros) and Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri) hibernate in the cave system. An area of nationally rare species-rich unimproved calcareous grassland of the Sheep's-fescue-Meadow Oat-grass type lies in the field to the east of Stoke Lane Quarry.[64]

CountrysideEdit

The countryside around the town is mostly farmed, although there are some areas of nearby woodland. About 1.8 mi (2.9 km) to the north-east is Beacon Hill Wood, owned by the Woodland Trust),[67] at the junction of the Fosse Way and a Roman road along the top of the Mendip Hills, which contain a number of tumuli.[68] To the north-west of the town are Ham Woods,[69] within which are the Windsor Hill railway tunnels and a viaduct,[70] remnants of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway.[71] The East Mendip Way long-distance path passes around the northern edge of Shepton Mallet and through Ham Woods.

South-west of the town is the Friar's Oven SSSI, site of herb-rich calcareous grassland classified as the Upright Brome (Bromus erectus) type,[72] and north-east is the Windsor Hill Quarry geological SSSI and the Windsor Hill Marsh biological SSSI, a marshy silted pond with adjacent damp, slightly acidic grassland of interest for its diverse flora, largely due to the varied habitats present within a small area. Two species are present that are rare in Somerset: Flat-sedge (Blysmus compressus) and Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis). Other marshland plants there include Purple Loosestrife, Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus), Hard Rush (Juncus inflexus), Soft Rush (J. effusus), Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), three species of Horsetail Equisetum spp. and seven sedges Carex spp.[73]

River SheppeyEdit

The centre and oldest parts of Shepton Mallet are adjacent to the River Sheppey, at the bottom of a valley about 115 m (377 ft) above sea level. The edges of the town lie about 45 m (148 ft) higher. The river has cut a narrow valley, and between Shepton Mallet and the village of Croscombe, to the west, it is bounded by steeply sloping fields and woodland. However, the river flows through much of Shepton Mallet itself in underground culverts.[62] It occasionally floods after heavy rain, such as on 20 October 2006,[74] and again on 29 May 2008,[75] when the rainfall was too heavy for the culverts to cope. Some houses around Leg Square, Lower Lane and Draycott Road were submerged to a depth of 1 metre (3 ft 3 in). A study by the Environment Agency identified that the current standard of flood protection in these parts of the town is insufficient, as it was of a 5–10-year event standard, whereas current guidelines require protection of a 50–200-year standard.[76] In the summer of 2010, the Agency began construction of a flood alleviation scheme at a cost of about £1.3 million.[77]

Town areasEdit

 
Kilver Court Gardens

Shepton Mallet has several distinct areas that originated as separate communities around the central point of the church and Market Place.[78][79] The town centre basically consists of two streets: High Street, running south from the Market Place towards the Townsend Retail Park, and the pedestrianised Town Street running north to Waterloo Bridge. To the east, separated from the Market Place by the Academy complex, is the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. Lower Lane, which runs under Waterloo Bridge along the bottom of the river valley to the north of the town centre, is one of the few parts of the town where the River Sheppey runs above ground. At the eastern end is Leg Square, which is surrounded by three large houses originally built by owners of some of the town's mills.[80][81][82] Close by is Cornhill, on which the former prison stands.

Roughly eastwards, Garston Street, also in the valley-bottom, consists of a row of weavers' and other artisans' cottages dating from the 17th century.[83] The eastern end of the area, adjacent to Kilver Street, is now occupied by cider breweries. Across Kilver Street (the A37) is Kilver Court, which during the 20th century was a factory, headquarters of a brewing business, and then headquarters of a leather-goods manufacturer.[84] Behind are the Kilver Court Gardens, originally built by Showerings for the recreation of its staff[84] and set against a backdrop of part of the Charlton Viaduct. The gardens are now open to the public.[85] On the eastern edge of the town is Charlton where there are former breweries and mills, now converted into a trading estate,[84] and right on the edge of the town is Charlton House, a luxury hotel and spa.[86]

 
Norah Fry Hospital, formerly the Shepton Mallet Union Workhouse

On the south side of the town is a triangle of land bounded on the east by the A37, on the north by the line of the former East Somerset Railway, and on the west by Cannard's Grave Road: Tadley Acres is a modern housing development built on land partly belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall. The development has been praised for its design quality and use of locally sourced natural building materials.[87] North of the former railway line is Collett Park. Across Cannard's Grave Road from Tadley Acres is the Mid-Somerset Showground. Just to the south-west of the town centre, on a site which at the start of the 20th century had been the grounds of the former Summerleaze House[88] and then a shoe factory, is the Townsend Retail Park, built in 2006–2007.

West Shepton, the south-west corner of the town, is marked by the former Shepton Mallet Union Workhouse, a Grade II listed building built in 1848.[89] It later became the Norah Fry mental hospital and is now a housing development.[90] Nearby, on the western edge of the town, is the modern community hospital. Further down the river valley are two hamlets: Darshill, once the site of a number of mills,[91] and Bowlish, which contains several grand clothiers' houses.[40] The steeply sloping fields adjoining the river between Bowlish and the rest of the Shepton Mallet are known locally as The Meadows. To their east is Hillmead, a council-housing estate built in the 1960s.[48]

ClimateEdit

Along with the rest of South West England, Shepton Mallet has a temperate climate generally wetter and milder than the rest of England. The annual mean temperature is about 10°C (50°F) with seasonal and diurnal variations, but due to the modifying effect of the sea, the range is less than in most other parts of the United Kingdom. January is the coldest month, with mean minimum temperatures between 1°C (34°F) and 2°C (36°F). July and August are the warmest months, with mean daily maxima around 21°C (70°F). In general, December is the dullest month and June the sunniest. South-west England enjoys a favoured location, particularly in summer, when the Azores High extends its influence north-eastwards towards the UK.[92]

Cloud often forms inland, especially near hills, and reduces exposure to sunshine. The average annual sunshine totals around 1600 hours. Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with convection. In summer, convection caused by solar surface heating sometimes forms shower clouds and much of the annual precipitation falls as showers and thunderstorms at that time of year. Average rainfall is 800–900 mm (31–35 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, with June to August having the lightest. The dominant wind is from the south-west.[92]

DemographyEdit

In the 2001 census, the population was 8,981, comprising 4,482 (49.9%) males and 4,499 (50.1%) females; 1,976 (22%) residents were aged 16 or below, 5,781 (64.4%) between 16 and 65, and 1,224 (13.6%) aged 65 or over.[51]

Of the population aged between 16 and 74, 4,200 (66%) were in employment, with only 224 (3.5%) unemployed, and the remainder economically inactive. About 69% of those in employment were in the service industries, with the remainder in manufacturing, while 1,459 people were employed in managerial or professional occupations, 522 were self-employed, and 1,888 worked in routine and semi-routine occupations.[51]

A total of 3,714 households were recorded in the town, of which 2,621 (70.6%) were owner-occupied, 515 (13.9%) rented from private landlords, and 578 (15.6%) rented from the local authority or other social landlord; 3,688 (99.3%) heads of households were white.[51]

In late 2008, Mendip District Council's estimate of the town's population was 9,700.[1]

EconomyEdit

There is a local perception that Shepton Mallet has been in economic decline for some time.[93] Some 350 manufacturing jobs were lost in the late 1990s and early years of the 21st century.[93] However, the District Council asserts that despite the loss of the manufacturing jobs on which Shepton Mallet has been historically dependent, more jobs in distribution, business services and public administration, health, education, quarrying, construction and hi-tech services have been created, so creating a more balanced economy. In 2001, there were slightly more jobs in the town than economically active people, resulting in a small in-flow of workers.[93]

The small town centre has a high proportion of empty premises in Market Place and the north end of High Street adjacent to Market Place. However, the pedestrianised Town Street north from the Market Place to Waterloo Bridge has had significant investment in its heritage in the last five years and now enjoys almost full occupancy of its shops. Since 2010 an "artisan quarter" of independent shops is starting to emerge in Town Street and Market Place.

Since 2004, Shepton Mallet's town centre buildings have benefited from the Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme[94] and the Townscape Heritage Initiative Scheme,[95] which provided grants for the repair of buildings, reinstatement of architectural features and enhancement of public spaces, as well as community involvement, education and training. As the body which made the bid for the funding, Mendip District Council has administered both schemes, but all decisions are made by a steering group of the main stakeholders in the town.

For centuries there has been a general Friday market in the Market Place. This has been in decline for some years and in 2010 attempts were made to revitalise it. After initial interest, the number of stallholders slowly decreased.[96] In recent months a number of suitcase traders have been supporting the market on a regular basis and this has attracted local interest.

The furniture store Haskins, which originated in Shepton Mallet in 1938, has its principal showroom in the High Street within Haskins Retail Centre,[97] which includes a number of others shops including a supermarket, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ponden Home, Pavers Shoes and an outlet clothing store. Retail jobs in the town increased in 2006–2007 when a new shopping development, including a large Tesco supermarket, a clothes store and other retailers on a site just south of the town centre, which had once been a factory making shoes and later boots. This development attracted national media attention when protesters occupied the site to try to prevent the felling of an avenue of trees dating back to the 19th century.[98] It has also divided opinion in the town, between those who hoped it would help to revitalise the town, and others who feared that local traders would be unable to compete, leading to a further decline of Shepton Mallet's High Street.[99] There is also the Mulberry Factory Shop[100] located on Kilver Street, near to the former Mulberry headquarters.[84]

 
The Babycham fawn outside the brewery

Shepton Mallet was home to three international alcoholic drinks producers. The Gaymer Cider Company closed in 2016.[101][102] Constellation Brands, former owners of Gaymers, still produces Babycham.[103] Family-run Brothers Drinks produces Brothers Cider[104] and runs a contract bottling operation for other drinks companies. In October 2016 it was announced that the cider factory and bottling plant would be taken over by Brothers Drinks.[105][106]

As well as the annual Royal Bath and West Show and other agricultural shows, the Royal Bath & West Showground near Evercreech, 2.5 mi (4.0 km) south-east of the town, hosts events such as the New Wine Christian festival and the National Adventure Sports Show, fairs and markets including the Shepton Mallet International Antiques & Collectors' Fair, and exhibitions and trade shows such as the National Amateur Gardening Show.[107] Until recently, Royal Bath and West Show hosted the Soul Survivor Christian festivals.

TransportEdit

 
Charlton Viaduct seen from Kilver Court Gardens

The A37 road runs north and south through Shepton Mallet, along the line of the Fosse Way between the south of the town and Ilchester. The A361 from Frome and Trowbridge skirts the eastern edge of Shepton Mallet on its way to Glastonbury and Taunton. The A371 from Castle Cary passes through the town on its way west to Wells; for some distance, both routes follow the line of the A37. A proposed extension of the Avon Ring Road (A4174) from Hicks Gate Roundabout between Keynsham and Bristol to the A37 south of Whitchurch would provide a direct link from Shepton Mallet to the M32 and M4 north of Bristol.[108]

Shepton Mallet had railway stations on two lines, both now closed. The first station, called Shepton Mallet (High Street) in British railways days, was on the East Somerset Railway branch line from Witham and opened in 1859.[109] The line was extended to Wells in 1862 and later connected to the Cheddar Valley line branch of the Bristol & Exeter Railway from Yatton to Wells via Cheddar. Through services between Yatton and Witham started in 1870. The line was absorbed into the Great Western Railway in the 1870s.

A second station, later called Shepton Mallet (Charlton Road), opened in 1874 with the building of the Bath extension of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway.[110] This station was some distance east of the centre of the town and was approached on the Charlton Viaduct.

 
The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Bath – Bournemouth line near Shepton Mallet in 1959

Both stations closed in the 1960s under the Beeching cuts. Shepton Mallet (High Street) closed with the withdrawal of passenger services on the Yatton to Witham line in 1963, though part of the former East Somerset line remains open for freight and as a heritage railway. Shepton Mallet (Charlton Road) was lost in 1966 with the closure of the Somerset & Dorset line. Nowadays, the nearest Network Rail station is Castle Cary, some eight miles (13 km) south of Shepton Mallet. However, the nearest station on the East Somerset Railway is Mendip Vale, a mile and a half away. Proposals endorsed by Mendip District Council[111] exist to restore passenger rail service in Shepton Mallet, endorsed by Mendip District Council[112] and Wells MP James Heappey.[113]

A bus service to the town is provided by First West of England.

LandmarksEdit

There are 218 listed buildings in Shepton Mallet and the town is in receipt of funding for the restoration of chosen town-centre historic buildings from the English Heritage Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme and the National Lottery Townscape Heritage Initiative.[114] The town centre, and the Bowlish, Darshill and Charlton areas, form a conservation area.[115]

The hexagonal market cross in the town centre, 50 ft (15 m) tall, dates back to a bequest of £20 by Walter Buckland in 1520,[3] and was rebuilt in 1841.[116] Also in the market place is The Shambles, a medieval market stall, although it has been much restored.[117] Former HM Prison Shepton Mallet sometimes known as Cornhill, was built in 1610,[118] is located close to the town centre, adjacent to the parish church. On 10 January 2013, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that it was one of seven prisons in England to close.[2] On 24 December 2014 it was announced that the prison had been sold to the housing development company City and Country and public consultations are taking place to seek agreement on its future use.[119][120]

 
Old Bowlish House (grade II*listed)

There are a number of fine houses in the older parts of the town around Lower Lane and Leg Square,[81][82][121] as well as in the outlying suburbs such as Charlton and Bowlish.[40] Old Bowlish House, which now offers pre-arranged tours, dates from the first half of the 17th century and was remodelled in about 1720 in the Palladian style.[122] Bowlish House, also in the Palladian style and now a hotel and restaurant,[123] was built in 1732 by a prosperous local clothier;[124][125] a spring is reported to rise in the cellar. Park House in Forum Lane dates to about 1700 and was modified about 1750.[126] Others among the 19 grade II listed buildings in Bowlish include Coombe House, which was built c. 1820;[127] 14, 15 and 16 Combe Lane, which were built around 1700 with 18th-century alterations;[128] 26 to 29 Combe Lane, which is a former mill built around 1700 and enlarged in 1850;[129] and 30 and 31 Combe Lane, which are two weaver's cottages dating to about 1850.[130] What is now a stained glass studio in Ham Lane was formerly a coal store attached to a stable which belonged to the public house next door, The Butcher's Arms, which ceased trading in 1860. The studio has provided stained glass for, among others, the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Ghost, Midsomer Norton.[131] As a consequence of its historic nature, Bowlish is included within Shepton Mallet's conservation area[132] and is a site of special archaeological interest.

 
Darshill Silk Mill

In the hamlet of Darshill, on the road from Shepton Mallet to Wells, there is a silk drying shed,[133] known locally as a handle house, three walls of which are full of holes to allow the passage of air to aid in the process of drying teasle heads, which were used to raise the nap on cloth in the textile process.

The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery was built in the 1860s and still dominates the western parts of Shepton Mallet;[46] fairly nearby is a former workhouse and then hospital, the Norah Fry Hospital,[134] which was built in 1848[135] and has now been converted into housing.[136] Two now-disused railway viaducts are to be found in the town, including the Charlton Viaduct which has 27 arches,[137] each spanning 28 feet (8.5 m). It is on a curve of 30 chains radius falling at 1 in 55 from each end to the midpoint.[138]

The market cross, the prison and prison wall, The Merchants House (8 Market Place),[139] Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, Charlton Viaduct, the former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church at Townsend, and Bowlish House, Old Bowlish House and Park House in Bowlish[40] are the town's nine grade II*listed buildings.

The town centre was extensively remodelled in the 1970s, a scheme financed by the Showering family who owned the town's cider manufactories. The scheme included a new library (in a faithful copy of a former inn, The Bunch of Grapes, which had been demolished), and a new entertainment complex called The Centre, entirely in concrete, on the eastern side of the market square.[140] When the allegedly Roman Chi Rho amulet was found in the Fosse Lane excavations in the 1990s, the complex was renamed The Amulet in honour of the find. It has recently been renamed again as The Academy.[141][142]

Shepton benefits from a sizeable park, a gift of land from a local man, John Kyte Collett. As a boy he was thrown out of the grounds of local estates for trespass so in later life he purchased and gave land to the town to provide a public space; this park, which opened in 1906, is called Collett Park in his honour.[143]

Religious sitesEdit

 
Parish church of St Peter and St Paul

The Grade I listed parish church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the 12th century, but the current building is largely from the 15th century, with further rebuilding in 1836. The oak wagon roof, made up of 350 panels of different designs, separated by 396 carved foliage bosses (supposedly every one different) and with 36 carved angels along the sides, was described by British historian Nikolaus Pevsner as "the finest 15th century carved oak wagon-roof in England". It was restored, at a cost of £5,000, in 1953–54.[144][145][146]

The former St Michael's Roman Catholic Church, built in 1804, is now a warehouse.[147] A modern Catholic Church, built in 1966, is located in Park Road.[148] It is served by the Community of Our Lady of Glastonbury.[149] There was also, between 1810 and 1831, a convent of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (also known as the Salesian Sisters[150]) based in a mansion in Draycott Road.[151][152] The building, which is now known as Sales House,[153] was subsequently used as a Lodge by Shepton Mallet's freemasons,[154] and is now used as social housing.

The Salvation Army has meeting rooms in the town,[155] whilst the local Methodists, who previously worshipped in their own Chapel in Paul Street (built in 1810; it is now a community centre),[156] have an agreement to share the parish church with the Anglican congregation.[157] The Baptist Chapel in Commercial Road was built in 1801 as a Congregational Church.[158] There were previously a number of other non-conformist chapels in Shepton, the most notable of which is the Unitarian Chapel on Cowl Street which was built in 1692 and enlarged in 1758; it is now a private dwelling.[159][160]

EducationEdit

There are three primary schools within Shepton Mallet. Shepton Mallet Infants School on Waterloo Road was rated as good by Ofsted in 2013.[161] St Paul's Junior School in Paul Street was assessed as good in 2014,[162] as was Bowlish Primary School when it was last inspected in 2012.[163]

Education for 11–16 year olds is provided by Whitstone School, a Technology College.[164] In 2013, it was assessed by Ofsted as good.[165]

For post-16 education, students travel to colleges in other local towns, such as Frome Community College, Strode College in Street, and Norton Radstock College in Midsomer Norton.

CultureEdit

 
Collett Park on Collett Day

During the summer of 2010, the television production company Wall to Wall filmed a series for BBC One in the town centre which was broadcast from 2 November 2010. Called Turn Back Time – The High Street, the series features a number of families running traditional bakers, butchers, grocers, and dressmakers shops, as well as a tea room, as they would have been during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, during World War II, and in the 1960s and 1970s.[166][167]

A town fete called Collett Day is held in June in the town's Collett Park. A free one-day agricultural show, the Mid-Somerset Show, is held on fields on Shepton Mallet's southern edge in August.

 
The Academy (formerly The Amulet)

The Glastonbury Festival, the largest music festival in Europe, is held slightly west of the village of Pilton, approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south-west of Shepton. The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music was held at Shepton Mallet in 1970. The town also hosts the annual Shepton Mallet Digital Arts Festival, founded in 2009.[168]

In 2007, The Amulet complex in the town centre became the base for the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts (BAPA), and the complex was renamed The Academy.[142] In 2009, BAPA went into administration[169] and was briefly replaced by the Musical Theatre School, before that also failed.[170] The complex's auditorium has the only suspended seating system in the United Kingdom.[141]

The town's weekly newspaper, part of the Mid Somerset Series, is called the Shepton Mallet Journal.[171] The town is also covered by the Fosse Way Magazine and Mendip Times.

In 2007, Shepton Mallet came to international attention when Westcountry Farmhouse Cheesemakers broadcast the maturation of a round of Cheddar cheese called Wedginald, an event that attracted more than 1.5 million viewers.[172]

Sport and leisureEdit

Shepton Mallet has a Non-League football club, Shepton Mallet F.C., which plays at the Playing Fields.[173] It also has a hockey club, which play at the Leisure Centre.[174]

The bowling green of the lawn bowls club is located in Frithfield Walk.[175] The club plays in the Wessex Mixed Friendly League, the Mid Somerset Men's League and the Mid Somerset Mixed League, and the ladies play in the Wild League. Shepton Mallet is also the home of a parkrun a free 5km event held weekly at 9:00 am on Saturdays in the towns Collett Park.[176]

Notable peopleEdit

Twin townsEdit

Shepton Mallet is twinned with: Misburg in Germany; Bollnäs in Gävleborg County, Sweden; and Oissel sur Seine in Haute-Normandie, France.[191]

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